The pastoralist and farmers' community in Kongwa district in Dodoma region are at high risk of running out of land for grazing and agriculture due to the existence and continued spread of the dangereous weed known as Kongwa Weed or Mahata as it is known by the residents of those areas, so the effort is needed to deal with the situation
Recently, a research project on Enhancing Rangeland Productivity and Community Livelihoods through Integrated Management of Noxious Weeds in Kongwa District held a meeting with various stakeholders in the district with the aim of providing feedback and development of the project which started in 2019.
The project is funded by COSTECH and is hosted at the Department of Animal, Aquaculture and Range Sciences (DAARS), Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA). Researchers in this project come from various departments in the College of Agriculture at SUA, Arhus University in Denmark, UDSM (College of Agriculture), and TALIRI-Kongwa. Other project partners include the NARCO through Kongwa Ranch, Kongwa District Council, Farmers and Pastoral Associations in Kongwa District.
Former Kongwa District Commissioner, Dr. Suleiman Serera speaking to journalists and reporters from various media outlets about the various effects of Kongwa weed
At the meeting, guests and various agricultural stakeholders had the opportunity to speak and comment on the existence of Kongwa weed which has been identified as a challenge for farmers and pastoralists in the area.
Among those who had the opportunity to speak and express their views was former Kongwa district commissioner, Dr. Suleiman Serera who pointed out that if the weed continues to spread in many parts of the district, it could lead to a severe shortage of grazing areas as most residents in Kongwa district are pastoralists who however have limited grazing areas which sometimes leads to disputes between farmers and pastoralists.
Despite the dangers to farmers and pastoralists due to the presence of Kongwa weed in the district, Dr. Serera challenged the researchers from Sokoine University of Agriculture to further their research study with a view to finding out if there are any potential benefits due to the presence of the weed.
He stressed that it is good to sometimes understand how Kongwa weed can be used for other human beneficial uses, as such weeds are sometimes difficult to eradicate completely in a short period of time especially in areas that are already widespread.
"We therefore urge researchers to look at these plants from all angles, as they have only looked at one side which shows that Kongwa weed is a real problem for farmers and pastoralists and they in their research aim to find a solution, but now we ask them to look more on the other side of benefits … what can these plants do to benefit us? " Insisted Dr. Serera
Giving the preliminary results of the study since 2019, Project Leader Dr. Ismail Suleiman said at present Kongwa weed has continued to grow in many parts of Dodoma region and that research measures are still underway to determine friendly ways to control the weed from spreading further and causing losses to farmers and pastoralists.
Commenting on how this weed grow and spreads in various parts of the country, Dr. Suleiman explained that areas with a minimum rainfall per year from 500 to 800 mm are preferred by this weed or areas with the highest rainfall in the first month of January are preferred.
"The regions with the environment that are most suitable for this weed are Dodoma, Singida and Manyara but also other regions that are favored on average by this weed are Arusha, Lindi, Tanga, Kilimanjaro, Mtwara, Morogoro and the Southern Highlands regions of Tanzania" said Dr. Suleiman
He also mentioned that the weed prefers to grow in pastoral and agricultural areas, especially in rested areas, and thrives in sandy and loam soils.
For his part, one of the student researchers who has done research on how to eradicate the weed, Mr. Notkery Mwalongo said many attempts to control the weed from further spreading have been done including using trees and crops that are hostile to the weed such as castor, Melia, Neem and Tobacco where Melia tree has shown good performance in controlling the weed.
Mwalongo said despite the results showing that the Melia tree is doing well in dealing with the weed, the challenge remains to ensure that the tree is produced in large quantities to deal with the weed effectively.
"We are still challenged to find a way to produce more of this tree (melia tree) in order to harvest and make chemicals for spraying to be able to kill this weed" said Mwalongo
Melia tree that can be used to make chemicals for controlling the Kongwa weed
For his part, Professor Anthony Sangeda, one of the researchers in the project, said the reason for conducting the study in Kongwa district was after it was discovered that the weed originated in the district, although it is likely that it was imported from other countries as the region has a history of being inhabited by freedom fighters from various countries in Southern Africa
Another guests who had the opportunity to speak at the meeting was the Chairman of Sejeri Village located in Sejeri Ward in Kongwa District in Dodoma Region, Mr. Amos Mizengo, who also described the history of the weed, said that in the past the locals saw the weed as part of the flower and others dared to plant it in their area, which led to the rapid spread of the weed.
He said the weed was currently circulating in more than 10 villages around the NARCO National Ranch, causing severe food shortages as the weed became dominant in the area and did not allow grass or other pasture to grow in the area.
Kongwa weed in a dry state (All photos by Gerald Lwomile, SUAMEDIA)
Story and Photo Credits:
Gerald Lwomile, SUAMEDIA